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School District Ready to Negotiate Fees

April 08, 1998|LESLEY WRIGHT

Pressed by booming enrollment, Orange Unified School District trustees are ready to hold developers responsible for the students produced with every new home.

The district is one of the few in the county that still relies solely on the automatic developer fees allowed by the state, which is about $1.80 per square foot, Supt. Robert L. French said.

The law also allows districts to set policies requiring developers to negotiate those fees to mitigate, or lessen, the financial impact of new homes on schools, he said.

In other words, if a large housing development produces so many students that the district has to build a new school, the district can negotiate with the developer for higher fees.

"This is the only way we have to build new schools other than going for a general obligation bond, which is difficult to pass in Orange County," French said.

Last month, the trustees received a consultant's report showing the district can expect nearly 28,000 homes to be built within the next 15 years.

To have enough classrooms for the 7,600 students estimated to move into the district, trustees would need to build seven elementary schools, another middle school and another high school. The study estimated that costs could range from $10 million for an elementary school to $50 million for a high school.

Trustees took a preliminary vote on the new fee negotiation policy last month and passed it, 4-2. Trustees Kathy Ward and Martin Jacobson voted against it, saying they thought the estimated costs of the new schools might be inflated.

The final vote, set for Thursday is expected to pass.

"We are not going to go out and build a Taj Mahal of a school," Trustee Bill Lewis said. "But having a good school is a good way of selling homes."

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